How a pinecone inspired a water-reacting architectural surface

July 14, 2015

Innovation Factory

The idea came on a rainy day. Walking in London’s Hyde Park, Chao Chen stopped to pick up and consider a pinecone’s anatomy. ‘Nature always has a professional way to solve life’s problem. In order to release and protect its seeds, a pinecone has the amazing ability to open and close through its surface reaction to water,’ says the Royal College of Arts product design student.

‘This natural phenomenon led me to a material study into pinecone [sic] of bio-mimicry science.’ The outcome was a smart building surface that can shapeshift when in contact with water, mimicking the pinecone’s architecture.

The material, for instance, can be used as a water-reacting shelter ‘covered in laminated tiles that open up on sunny days, but stack on top of each other to provide shelter when it starts to rain. Imagine such a shelter being used in the middle of a park or other public spaces,’ said Chen in a Fast Company interview. ‘Users will feel like they’re standing under some sort of tree, enjoying the sunshine, but not very strong sunshine.’

Find out more about Chao Chen’s project here or read the Fast Company interview.

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